Hepatology strives to evaluate manuscripts as expeditiously as possible. The time to initial editorial decision for our manuscripts is little more than 2 weeks. However, there are other steps between the time a manuscript is first submitted and ultimately published which together can add up, especially when revisions are required. Moreover, the rapid development and approval of new hepatitis C antiviral agents has ushered in a new era of therapy for which a lag in publication of key clinical trial manuscripts could impact care. Therefore, there is motivation to handle certain manuscripts even more quickly. Although not specific to HCV, developments in that field necessitate an even faster publication timeline for particularly impactful manuscripts that are groundbreaking in scope. Consequently, the editorial board of Hepatology, in cooperation with our publisher, has designed a rapid review process to accommodate this need without sacrificing scientific integrity. This highly selective process will allow Hepatology to become more nimble and responsive to changing clinical landscapes, and in doing so remain a preferred publication destination.
Hepatology is a leading journal that publishes high-impact articles in large part due to the rigorous selection and review process of its editorial team and reviewers. Currently, less than one in five manuscripts are accepted for publication. There are certain opportunities to shorten the evaluation timeline despite this rigorous review process, however. Once a manuscript has been submitted to the editorial office, the Editor-in-Chief assigns it to an appropriate Associate Editor who is knowledgeable in that field. The Associate Editor then has up to 7 days to identify potential reviewers, the names of which are forwarded to the AASLD editorial staff for selection of a first and second manuscript reviewer. Since each potential reviewer has up to 2 weeks to accept or decline the opportunity to review, and then 2 more weeks to submit their review and confidential recommendation, the initial decision for a reviewed manuscript can take several weeks. If a manuscript is then “accepted with revisions” or “rejected with opportunity to resubmit,” it is returned to the authors with the reviewers' comments. The author(s) then have up to 3 months to resubmit a revised manuscript, which is again re-reviewed by the same initial reviewers. Although only one opportunity for revision is allowed, the reviewers again have up to 2 weeks to review the revised manuscript and submit their recommendations. The Editor and Associate Editor then provide a final decision regarding acceptance or rejection to the author. Accepted manuscripts are sent to the AASLD editorial office for formatting and editing prior to submission to the publisher for online publication in anticipation of journal publication. This editing process also can take several weeks. It is therefore not uncommon for an accepted manuscript to take several months between initial submission and online publication.
Accelerating this process without impairing or compromising a rigorous and thorough review process requires care. Furthermore, the challenge of a rapid review process to the reviewers and editorial personnel is such that only highly selected manuscripts would qualify. Henceforth, a fast track Rapid Communication will become an option to authors by selecting this choice from a drop-down menu at the time of initial submission. The Editor and Associate Editor will determine whether a Rapid Communication is justified, and notify the submitting author by e-mail of this decision so they may continue or withdraw the manuscript. Selected editorial board reviewers will then have only 3 days to accept or decline the opportunity to review the manuscript, and only 7 days to return an initial comprehensive review and recommendation. If a manuscript is then “accepted with revisions” or “rejected with opportunity to resubmit,” it is returned to the authors along with the reviewers' comments and an opportunity to resubmit a single, revised manuscript. Reviewers will have only 7 days to re-review the revised manuscript prior to making a final recommendation. Finally, the editorial office, in conjunction with the publisher, has agreed to rapidly edit and format the revised manuscript so that it would be available online within 5 business days. This rapid review process will cut weeks off the regular review to allow online publication of an accepted revised manuscript within as little as 4-6 weeks after initial submission, depending upon the time required for the authors to make revisions.
Because of the extra level of effort involved, this process will be utilized only sparingly and only for potentially high-impact publications. It will not be restricted to any one type of manuscript, although critical phase III clinical trial results seem an obvious choice for this consideration. The Editors and Editorial Board look forward to this new route to publication to ensure that Hepatology continues to bring the highest impact and most cutting-edge concepts and findings to our readers.
DONALD M. JENSEN
Michael H. Nathanson